Blog Post: April 5th, 2021

By: Lindsay Bierbaum, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Have you ever felt dizzy or lightheaded and wondered why? You aren’t the only one. Dizziness is a common symptom that we hear from many of our patients. Mayo Clinic states, “dizziness can range from fleeting faintness to a severe balance disorder that makes normal functioning impossible.” Among adults over age 65, up to 30 percent experience dizziness. There are many common causes of dizziness.

If you feel like the room is spinning, especially when switching positions, most commonly your dizziness is caused by Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or vertigo. This condition affects our vestibular system, more specifically your inner ear. This system is very important for our equilibrium and sense of balance. The inner ear is composed of canals that are fluid filled. When the crystals or tiny bits of calcium in your inner ear get loose and move to places they don’t belong, you feel dizzy. BPPV causes brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness. It is usually triggered by specific changes in your head’s position. This typically occurs when you turn your head or roll in bed.  

Symptoms of vertigo typically include brief episodes of dizziness lasting about a minute. Other symptoms may include unsteadiness, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting. This is more common for women over age 50 as well as those who have had the condition in the past. The frustrating part is that commonly this is idiopathic, meaning the condition comes on by an unknown cause.  

Here at 21st Century Rehab we have many Doctors of Physical Therapy that specialize in vestibular rehabilitation. Vestibular rehab is a specialized form of physical therapy that addresses dizziness, imbalance, and functional decline as a result of a vestibular disorder. These disorders can cause permanent deficits if not treated appropriately. We work to teach the brain to use other senses, such as vision and somatosensory (touch, pressure, temperature, motion) to substitute for potential deficits. Our treatments and exercises include:

  • Habituation: repeated exposure to specific movements or visual stimuli that provoke dizziness in a controlled manner
  • Gaze stabilization: maintaining focus on an object as a patient moves their head from side/side or up/down for a period of time
  • Balance training: altering visual or somatosensory cues, such as performing exercises with eye closed or on other surfaces such as foam
  • Canalinth repositioning: coordinated movements or positions performed with the guidance of a PT to treat BPPV

Our treatments plans include guided sessions and an individualized home exercise program. The duration of physical therapy depends on the diagnosis and symptoms. Some patients many only need to be seen for 1-2 visits. It’s important to come and see a physical therapist right away when you feel dizzy, so give us a call by visiting our locations page, and we will schedule you as soon as possible. You can also request an appointment directly, by clicking here! Remember, no referral is needed!